In the realm of planting, I’ve been forced to learn a lot about forgiveness. In the past 2 and a half years, I’m positive that I’ve emotionally injured people… and I know that I’ve been hurt by several people as well. In fact, I’m wrestling with forgiveness right now. It’s a constant in my life now.
The following is a stab at trying to help me process through the forgiveness process. (Bear with me, please!)
I have to forgive myself. I need to forgive my family for words that cut and cling to me. I need to forgive those who walk through our church doors and hurt me unintentionally. I need to forgive my friends who forget to check in sometimes. I need to forgive those who gave our church “a chance” and then walked out the doors to look for “another church.” I need to forgive those who don’t make it to church every week even though many have given up several hours to prep the church, write the lessons, practice the songs and turn the heat on. (Which sometimes doesn’t happen in time…)
People are Imperfect. Us Included.
This is not a new concept. We all acknowledge that no human who has ever walked this planet (besides Jesus) is perfect. If we acknowledge our own imperfections (like my imperfection of feeling left out), we need to realize others have imperfections as well. They may be subtle or out in the open… imperfections can be sneaky (like ninjas… as my 6 year-old would tell you.)
C.S. Lewis was spot on in this:
“. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.”
Knowing Lewis’ quote (and fully understanding it) should allow us to give each other the grace we need. Grace for their imperfections. Grace when they don’t call. Grace when they use words that seem harsh or ignorant to you. Grace when your church doesn’t measure up and lead enough bible studies. Which leads me into my next point…
Give Grace to Those Who’ve Hurt You
This part is what really scratches at you. When someone has walked away from me with frustration… my heart first becomes hard with anger… then quickly turns to sadness. I don’t last long in the anger stage… God has graced me at least with that. But the sadness sticks to me– for days, weeks or even months. Every time you hear their name or see them, your insides will bristle (and mine undoubtable crumbles. I usually run for the hills and hide from everyone so that they cannot see it written across my face. I evidently can hide nothing.).
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says. (C.S. Lewis)
We must forgive others, when we ask God to forgive us (Matthew 6:14). With the softness of forgiveness in our hearts (no matter how hard it was to forgive), God is able to mold His love back into our hearts to love others the way that He loves us.
Give God your depression or anger.
Ask Him to soothe your wounded heart and heal it wholly. This is something that you need to ask Him daily. Beg Him for forgiveness in the situation and allow Him to mold your heart into something that looks more like His.
With all this talk about forgiveness… I wonder. How could He, the God of the Universe, forgive us? Us- petty humans with self-righteous and self-interest at heart. And not just us– how could He forgive me? I mean, I’m “supposed” to be this woman of God who is standing by her man, bringing people to Christ and serving others with not a thought of myself. Ha! I am NOWHERE close to that… (as you saw earlier in my post.) I am guilty of being self-absorbed. I am guilty of laziness. I am guilty of not wanting to reach out to others and I am guilty of wanting to stay at home with my family when a church event is going on. I am guilty. But…
I am forgiven.
So, why is it so hard to forgive others? Maybe it’s because of everything that we are guilty of.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
If we have the power to love within us… we must have the power to forgive.
I love the verse in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Why do I love this verse? The very first part: “Bear with each other...” It reminds me that we are not alone on this earth. Jesus established the Church before he left for heaven. The Church is here for us… it is our family… our connection… something to lean on. Something to help you press through the harder times.